Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend: Power pop, power ballads and grunge

Fri, Jun 4, 2021, 05:00

   
  

Album:
Blue Weekend

Artist:
Wolf Alice

Label:
Dirty Hit/BMG

Genre:
Alternative

Alice reportedly have their own imitable way of fine-tuning their material by playing their music over movie trailers as part of an effort to enhance its cinematic qualities. This approach paid dividends in 2017, when they were chosen to soundtrack a pivotal closing scene in T2 Trainspotting. While the surprisingly brilliant Danny Boyle-directed sequel didn’t quite have the same cultural impact of the trailblazing original in 1996, it helped put Wolf Alice ( as well as Young Fathers) firmly on the map. 

The London band subsequently won the 2018 Mercury Music Prize for their second album, Visions of a Life, which then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed in an ultimately unsuccessful chart battle against Shania Twain in return for singer Ellie Rowsell’s endorsement of him in the 2017 general election.

All this tees up Blue Weekend as a hotly anticipated release. Rowsell, who has spoken about receiving unwanted attention from shock rocker turned disgraced musician Marilyn Manson, delivers on another fine collection of belters, combining power pop with power ballads and a bit of grunge rock for good measure.

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice

By now, Wolf Alice are high-profile stalwarts of the European festival circuit (whenever it returns) but remain relatively unknown in the US. Blue Weekend could well be the album to alter this. Smile is an already highly successful single. “Lost souls congregate at the bar,” Rowsell sings in an outsider anthem. Its predecessor, The Last Man on Earth, is another big torch song.

There is nothing refreshingly new here, or anything that as emotively pulls at the heartstrings as Silk from T2 Trainspotting

Blue Weekend is undeniably effective as Wolf Alice refine and slightly redefine their sound. It mines relationship uncertainties for its subject matter, especially on Safe from Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love) and How Can I Make it OK?.

That said, there is nothing refreshingly new here, or anything that as emotively pulls at the heartstrings as Silk from T2 Trainspotting. Producer Markus Dravs sprinkles his alt-pop magic dust on proceedings, as he has done many times over with blue-chip names such as Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Björk, Brian Eno, Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine and Kings of Leon.

Wolf Alice have likened the challenge of making Blue Weekend to having the difficult second album hurdle postponed to the third. They’ve passed this test with flying colours, and their record that should be a resounding success. Blue Weekend will also help stir up demand for their live show whenever the dust settles. 

Still, in a bumper transitional year, when so much incredible music is literally churned out on a weekly basis, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be appraising this as one of 2021’s best.